The Tea Party Movement, the rapidly growing and spreading political
movement fueled by resentment and anger aimed at arrogantly unresponsive
elected government officials, recently concluded its very first confab ---
a three-day convention in Nashville, Tennessee. Deliberating from Thursday,
February 4 through Saturday, February 6, the gathering was designed to form
alliances with various tea party groups nationwide to be a force for persuading
the country's two major political parties to listen to and serve the people rather
than dictate to them.
However, some Tea Party activists steered clear of the proceedings, believing
that its true purpose is to turn the movement into a top-down, heirarchical
organization which could also be co-opted by the Republican Party and its
moderate/liberal leadership. Other activists worried that the event would lead
to the establishment of a third political party which would likely split the
nation's conservative vote in elections, leading to Democratic Party victories.
The convention, organized by Tennessee activists Judson and Sherry Phillips,
put up what these wary Tea Partiers perceived as red flags:
*A $549 price tag for an all-access pass for the three-day event. For anyone
coming just to hear the convention's main speaker, former Alaska Governor
Sarah Palin, $349 to purchase the ducat. Gov. Palin said that she would
donate her honorarium to some conservative political groups. Many people
declined to attend the bash because they simply couldn't afford to, and had
complained that the pricey tickets ran counter to the populist purpose of the
Tea Party Movement, even with Gov. Palin's generous intent for her fee.
*The Phillipses are long-time Tennessee Republican Party figures, having
worked on many GOP campaigns in their home state. This fact led many
Tea Partiers to believ that the convention was a ruse by Republicans to
take over the movement.
*Some of the scheduled speakers, including U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn
(R-TN) withdrew from the conference because of the two aforementioned
facts. Some partnering Tea Party organizations pulled out as well. Your
faithful Peasant did not attend, though I certainly would have loved to,
because of the cost of the respective passes.
Now given all of these things, The Peasant says this:
First, holding a Tea Party convention was a good thing to do. It was an
opportunity to gather Tea Party activists from around the country to exchange
ideas for the movement's next step, and how it should thus proceed. But the
attendance prices should not have been stratospheric, for the sake of those
wishing to attend but having been waylaid by the effects of the staggering
economy as well as to preserve the populist feel and purpose of the convention
and the movement itself. Let the fat-cat elites in the Big Two political parties
have their $500 + gatherings; the Tea Party Movement is supposed to be
about "regular" Americans, many of whom don't have that much disposable
income to spend on attending political get-togethers.
Second, the success of the Tea Party Movement is in its "outsider" appeal.
As a phenomenon having originated with "regular" Americans via grassroots
activity, in part as a reaction to the cavalier behavior of the Republicans and
Democrats and their big-monied constituencies (Big Business, Big Labor, etc.),
it must be and be seen to be independent of these groups. If the Tea Party
Movement is to exert pressure on the politicians to get them to change how
they function, then it cannot become entangled in the latter's web, lest its
purpose be distorted and very possibly co-opted.
Third, the Tea Party Movement should maintain a balance between being a
protest movement and being a watchdog over our elected officials. It must
point out what the government is doing wrong, then propose and advocate
what alternatives must be initiated. Furthermore, the movement must have
the leeway to spontaneously organize and hold Tea Party rallies whenever
and wherever the need arises; its participants should not have to wait for
permission and instructions on whether and how to proceed in taking action.
The Tea Party Movement should neither be a third political party, a component
of one of the existing major political parties, nor a corporate entity. Any of
these things would compromise the integrity and purpose of the movement.
The Tea Party Movement, however, is young. It is experiencing growing pains,
and this is to be expected. In time, though, it will mature and thus function in
ways which will be most fruitful in aiding the cause of reinstituting constitu-
tional restraint and responsibility in government. And the American people
will no longer be shoved aside from the process of governance.
NOTE: The Peasant wishes to thank USA TODAY Online and The Washington
Independent.com for their coverage of the National Tea Party Convention, their
coverage being the source of information for today's article.